I am writing this in the quiet of the holiday season. The calendar tells me that we are only days away from the third decade of what I still think of as the new century, but I realize that, like most of us, my conception of time has shifted throughout my life. The distance between today and yesterday has narrowed, and the view into the future is less expansive than it was not long ago.
Our three children were born at the crest of the 21st century, and now our oldest, Madeline, is preparing to graduate from Colby in May. Nora is in her sophomore year at Bowdoin, and Declan’s dream just came true when he was admitted to Colby’s Class of 2024. As I write, sitting in front of me is a photo of the three of them resting on Carolyn’s lap—miniature versions of the wonderful adults they are becoming. Wasn’t that yesterday? It feels that way.
We are blessed to have our children in Maine where they can receive a world-class education, take advantage of the state’s remarkable assets, and still be nearby so we can enjoy each other’s company. We love spending time together, which is one reason this holiday season feels extra special—and a bit poignant. With Madeline graduating and moving out of Maine, will these seasons that we spend taking long walks together, cooking as a team, laughing and teasing endlessly, and fighting for control of the music be coming to an end? That’s not a thought I cherish. With these memories of the past and glimpses of the future, I choose to live fully in the present—a fortunate time for us.
And our children, because of their exceptional educations, will have options wherever they decide to settle. They are fortunate indeed. But that is not the case for many children in Maine who are growing up in a state with an aging population, a declining workforce, and a median household income of $56,000. This beautiful state has to be more than a special place to attend college or vacation. It needs to be a place where higher education is affordable and where a thriving new economy provides ample opportunities for all those who choose to live in this remarkable part of the world.
At Colby we are committed to doing our part. Our new financial aid programs are opening the doors for students from low- and middle-income families. With an expected family contribution of $0 for families with incomes of up to $65,000 with typical assets and no more than $15,000 a year for families with incomes up to $150,000 and typical assets, for roughly nine out of 10 families in Maine Colby would be the most affordable choice for a four-year education—even more affordable than state universities.
We are also doing our part to stimulate economic growth, as evidenced by the results of a recent independent analysis of Colby’s economic impact locally and throughout Maine. We initiated the study because it seemed the right time given the investments we have been making at the College and in Waterville, but it was also important to do now because Maine needs local and statewide stratagems for encouraging economic growth and opportunity. It turns out that over the last five years Colby has contributed $1.5 billion to the Maine economy, most of that in Waterville and our surrounding towns. Our investments have turned the tide in our hometown, leading to a 6-percent increase in population and workforce, while overall our county mirrors others in Maine with a steady decline in both of these statistics. There are hundreds of new jobs in our city, property values are on the rise after decades of stagnation, and new investments are pouring into affordable housing, businesses, and infrastructure. A recent editorial in the Portland Press Herald about the state’s economy concluded with the following: “As our population ages, the state’s future relies on institutions that can attract and retain people who want to live and work here. What’s happening at Colby College shows what can and should be done.”
We can be proud of these efforts that are making a meaningful difference for Waterville, but we shouldn’t rest until the young people of this state and their families can imagine a future here where they can prosper and be rewarded for living a good and productive life. It is not too much to ask as we head into this new decade. And there is no time to waste. Somehow the days, weeks, and years—even the decades—fly by.
David A. Greene